December 17th, 2005


[Eliptony Core Sample] Bail-Benz

Begg, Ean, The Cult of the Black Virgin (Penguin Arkana, 1996)

In the broad and piebald field of eliptonic bibliophany, I will admit to being a sucker for Beauty, either as a physical artifact -- Manly Palmer Hall's Secret Teachings of All Ages being the epitome here -- or in prose style, which is far less common, though Charles Fort's rhetorical swoop and staccato larrup is a Mauve Decade ironist's delight. And of course, one must appreciate the Canon, your Agrippas and Hoaglands and Velikovskys, for its own sake. But the Three Virtues I truly revere, and diligently seek, in eliptony are Completism, Obscurity, and Sheer Madness. So when you get a book like Begg's, which scores amazingly well on all three metrics, that calls for special attention. Begg's book was the first book in English to consider the strange iconography of the Black Madonnas (the most famous of which is probably the Madonna of Czestochowa), which is a ping for Obscurity. In the back, it features a 140-page "Michelin gazetteer" of all the Black Madonnas Begg (and Mrs. Begg) could find, from Algeria to Santa Fe, New Mexico; truly obsessive Completism. And over the 150 pages or so before we get to that glorious Big List, Begg just pours out a supreme level of utter malarkey about the Cathars, and Cybele, and the Loathly Lady, and Gnostic Whores and, well, Sheer Madness. All it's missing is ley lines linking the Black Virgin sites with the megalithic grid.

Honorable Mentions: Beckley, Timothy Green, UFO Silencers; Bell, Michael, Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires